Water on softball field could cost city more

May 18, 2012

The city just spent thousands of dollars improving the infield of the Hart Park softball field. But water on the field after rain has left people wondering if the job was executed correctly.

Tom Ertel, Parks and Forestry Board president, checked out the field after rainfall May 9. He found two inches of water covering a 10-foot area.

Water on the field during the day forces the Wauwatosa Recreation Department - which is an operation of the School District, not the city - to cancel night softball leagues and disappoint players, Rick Beattie, recreation director, told the board Tuesday.

"When we play down here in the summer, it becomes an event and when we can't, it becomes a real negative," he said, adding the local restaurants and bars look forward to the team gatherings that follow games.

Players see the rain end and the sun come out hours before the 6:30 p.m. start time, then get alerted that the field is too wet to play on and they get frustrated, Beattie explained. Had Parks and Forestry staff removed the water, raked and sprayed the diamond with a drying agent, leagues would have operated as planned, he said.

The Recreation Department pays the city $16,000 so that the 800 to 1,000 players can use the field five nights per week. The players also raised enough money to purchase a new scoreboard, their contribution to the field improvements.

He estimates that afternoon showers lead to canceling league games about a dozen times per year.

Board member George Haas said he, too, has received the angry phone calls wondering why games are getting canceled.

There was debate to whether staffing schedules or construction flaws on the field were the root of the problems.

The city's Engineering Department and the contractor both determined the field's drainage system didn't need replacement, saving money on the project, Parks and Forestry Superintendent Ken Walbrant said.

Calls to the contractor haven't been returned and they seem to have gone out of business, he said.

Ertel believes there may be a construction problem, but he said it can likely be fixed by evening out the field so there won't be puddles of standing water. It's likely city staff will have to take on that job, he said.

The department is short-staffed with forestry workers out trimming trees, Walbrant said. In addition, one worker has been scheduled at 5 a.m. daily to accommodate early-risers walking the track. Having people working in the late afternoon or evening becomes difficult.

However, he assured the board that the softball field gets plenty of attention with two seasonal workers assigned to prepping the field daily.

"It's one of major programs we have," he said. If it rains, we call people off everything else to get it ready. Sometimes it just rains too late (in the day)," Walbrant said.


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